Sunday, October 30, 2011
A hotel proprietor, Desmond was first elected to the 7th Dáil in the 1932 general election for the Cork Borough constituency, where his party colleague W. T. Cosgrave (the President of the Executive Council) topped the poll.
He was re-elected at the 1933 election, but lost his seat at the 1937 general election, when the constituency was reduced from a 5-seater to a 4-seater. He then retired from politics.
William Desmond was Lord Mayor of Cork for the term from 1940 to 1941.
The party's policies included the establishment of a central bank (at this time, the Free State was still part of the sterling area, and the Bank of Ireland served as lender to the government), deflation through pay cuts, protectionism, an end to the Anglo-Irish Trade War and the removal of rates on agricultural land. The party was strongly opposed to Fianna Fáil, despite apparent similarities of policy, perhaps because most National Centre Party deputies represented rural constituencies. Fianna Fáil, with its strength among small farmers and increasing popularity among the rural middle-class, was the most obvious threat to a rural-based party at this time.
In the general election of January 1933, the new party won eleven seats. During this election, the party's opponents in Fianna Fáil disrupted National Centre Party meetings, often with the assistance of the prohibited Irish Republican Army. These incidents contributed to the rise of the Army Comrades Association, which was formed to protect the establishment conservative parties from the perceived threat of political violence. Fianna Fáil formed a majority government after the election. During the first Fianna Fáil government, the National Centre Party aligned with the largest opposition party, Cumann na nGaedheal, on almost all issues of political or economic importance. However, Frank MacDermot rejected a suggestion that the two parties should merge.
The opposition parties united in mutual self-defence when the government banned the Army Comrades Association in August 1933. The two parties and the ACA merged to form Fine Gael in September, just eleven months after the formation of the National Centre Party. Although MacDermot became a Vice-President of Fine Gael at its foundation, he differed from most of his party colleagues on issues such as the degree of emphasis to be given to Ireland's membership of the British Commonwealth. He ultimately resigned from the party, to sit as an Independent.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute discretion. The President's official residence is Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin. The office was established by the Constitution of Ireland in 1937, and became internationally recognised as head of state in 1949 following the coming into force of the Republic of Ireland Act.
The current president is Mary McAleese, who took office on 11 November 1997. The next president will be Michael D. Higgins, who was elected on 29 October 2011.
The Constitution of Ireland provides for a parliamentary system of government, under which the role of the head of state is largely a ceremonial one. The President is formally one of three tiers of the Oireachtas (national parliament), which also comprises Dáil Éireann (the lower house) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate or upper house).
Unlike many other republics, executive authority is expressly vested in the Government (cabinet). Thus, the President is not even the nominal chief executive. The Government is obliged, however, to keep the President generally informed on matters of domestic and foreign policy. Most of the functions of the President may only be carried out in accordance with the strict instructions of the Constitution, or the binding 'advice' of the Government. The President does, however, possess certain personal powers that may be exercised at his or her discretion.
The main functions are prescribed by the Constitution:
Appoints the Government
The President appoints the Taoiseach (head of government) and other ministers, and accepts their resignations. The Taoiseach is appointed upon the nomination of the Dáil, and the remainder of the cabinet upon the nomination of the Taoiseach and approval of the Dáil. Ministers are dismissed on the advice of the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach must, unless there is a dissolution of the Dáil, resign upon losing the confidence of the house.
Appoints the judiciary
The President appoints the judges to all Courts of the Republic of Ireland, on the advice of the Government.
Convenes and dissolves the Dáil
This power is exercised on the advice of the Taoiseach; government or Dáil approval is not needed. The President may only refuse a dissolution when a Taoiseach has lost the confidence of the Dáil.
Signs bills into law
The President cannot veto a bill that the Dáil and the Seanad have adopted. However, he/she may refer it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. If the Supreme Court upholds the bill, the President must sign it however if it is found to be repugnant to the constitution, the President will decline to give assent.
Represents the state in foreign affairs
This power is exercised only on the advice of the Government. The President accredits ambassadors and receives the letters of credence of foreign diplomats. Ministers sign international treaties in the President's name. This role was not exercised by the President prior to the Republic of Ireland Act 1948
Supreme commander of the Defence Forces
This role is somewhat similar in statute to that of a commander-in-chief. An officer's commission is signed and sealed by the President. This is a nominal position, the powers of which are exercised on the advice of the Government. (See Minister for Defence.)
Power of pardon
The President, on the advice of the Government, has "the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment". Pardon, for miscarriages of justice, has applied rarely: Thomas Quinn in 1940, Brady in 1943, and Nicky Kelly in 1992. The current procedure is specified by Section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993. There were plans in 2005 for paramilitary "on the runs" to receive pardons as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, to supplement the 1998 early release of serving prisoners after the Good Friday Agreement. This was controversial and was soon abandoned along with similar British proposals.Power of commutation and remittance are not restricted to the President, though this was the case for death sentences handed down prior to the abolition of capital punishment.
Other functions specified by statute or otherwise include:
- The President is ex officio President of the Irish Red Cross Society.
- The President appoints, on the advice of the Government, the Senior Professors and chairman of the council of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland; the members of the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal; the Ombudsman; and the members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
- The President appoints one trustee to the Chester Beatty Library. This was specified in Chester Beatty's will and given effect by a 1968 Act of the Oireachtas.
- The President is the patron of Gaisce – The President's Award, established by trust deed in 1985.
- The President may not leave the state without the consent of the Government.
- Every formal address or message "to the nation" or to either or both Houses of the Oireachtas must have prior approval of the Government. Other than on these two (quite rare) occasions there is no limitation on the President's right to speak. While earlier presidents were exceptionally cautious in delivering speeches and on almost every occasion submitted them for vetting, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese have made much more use of their right to speak without government approval, with Mary McAleese doing many live radio and television interviews. Nonetheless, by convention Presidents refrain from direct criticism of the government.
Every formal address or message "to the nation" or to either or both Houses of the Oireachtas must have prior approval of the Government. Other than on these two (quite rare) occasions there is no limitation on the President's right to speak. While earlier presidents were exceptionally cautious in delivering speeches and on almost every occasion submitted them for vetting, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese have made much more use of their right to speak without government approval, with Mary McAleese doing many live radio and television interviews. Nonetheless, by convention Presidents refrain from direct criticism of the government.
The Taoiseach is required to resign if he has "ceased to retain the support of a majority" of the Dáil, unless he asks the President to dissolve the Dáil. The President has the right to refuse such a request, in which case the Taoiseach must resign immediately. This power has never been invoked. However, the necessary circumstances existed in 1944, 1982 and 1994. The apparent discrepancy between the Irish and English versions of the Constitution has discouraged Presidents from contemplating the use of the power. On the three occasions when the necessary circumstances existed, presidents have adopted an ultra-strict application of a policy of non-contact with the opposition. The most notable instance of this was in January 1982, when Patrick Hillery instructed an aide, Captain Anthony Barber, to ensure that no telephone calls from the opposition were to be passed on to him. (Nevertheless three opposition figures, including Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey, demanded to be put through to Hillery, with Haughey threatening to end Barber's career if the calls weren't put through. Hillery, as Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, recorded the threat in Barber's file and recorded that Barber had been acting on his instructions in refusing the call). Even without this consideration, refusing such a request would arguably create a constitutional crisis, as it is considered a fairly strong constitutional convention that the head of state always grants a parliamentary dissolution. Having said this, Mary Robinson, who had been a distinguished constitutional lawyer, has stated that she would have refused Albert Reynolds a dissolution if he had asked for one after his coalition government fell apart in 1994.
If requested to do so by a petition signed by a majority of the membership of the Seanad, and one-third of the membership of the Dáil, the President may, after consultation with the Council of State, decline to sign into law a bill (other than a bill to amend the constitution) he/she considers to be of great "national importance" until it has been approved by either the people in an ordinary referendum or the Dáil reassembling after a general election, held within eight months. This power has never been used, and no such petition has been invoked. Of the 60 Senators, 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach, so there is rarely a majority opposed to a government bill.
The President may appoint up to seven members of the Council of State, and remove or replace such appointed members. (See list of presidential appointees to the Council of State.) The following powers all require prior consultation with the Council of State, although the President need not take its advice:
Referral of bills to the Supreme Court
The President may refer a bill, in whole or part, to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. If the Supreme Court finds any referred part unconstitutional, the entire bill falls. This power may not be applied to a money bill, a bill to amend the Constitution, or an urgent bill the time for the consideration of which has been abridged in the Seanad. This is the most widely used reserve power; a full list is at Council of State (Ireland)#Referring of bills. In a 1982 judgment delivered under such a referral, Chief Justice Tom O'Higgins bemoaned the crude strictures of the prescribed process; especially the fact that, if the court finds that a bill does not violate the Constitution, this judgment can never subsequently be challenged.
Abridgement of the time for bills in the Seanad
The President may, at the request of the Dáil, impose a time-limit on the period during which the Seanad may consider a bill. The effect of this power is to restrict the power of the Seanad to delay a bill that the Government considers urgent.
Appointment of a Committee of Privileges
The President may, if requested to do so by the Seanad, establish a Committee of Privileges to solve a dispute between the two Houses of the Oireachtas as to whether or not a bill is a money bill.
Address to the Oireachtas
The President may address, or send a message to, either or both Houses of the Oireachtas. Four such addresses have been made: one by de Valera, twice by Robinson, and once by McAleese (details at Council of State (Ireland)#Addresses to the Oireachtas). The approval of the government is needed for the message; in practice, the entire text is submitted.
Address to the Nation
The President may "address a message to the Nation" subject to the same conditions as an address to the Oireachtas. This power has never been used. Commonplace messages, such as Christmas greetings, are not considered to qualify.
Convention of meetings of the Oireachtas
The President may convene a meeting of either or both Houses of the Oireachtas. This power would allow the President to step in if, in extraordinary circumstances, the ordinary procedures for convening the houses had broken down.
The President is directly elected by secret ballot using the Alternative Vote, the single-winner analogue of the Single Transferable Vote. Under the Presidential Elections Act, 1993 a candidate's election formally takes place in the form of a 'declaration' by the returning officer. Where more than one candidate is nominated, the election is 'adjourned' so that a ballot can take place, allowing the electors to choose between candidates. A Presidential election is held in time for the winner to take office the day after the end of the incumbent's seven-year term. In the event of premature vacancy, an election must be held within sixty days.
Only resident Irish citizens aged eighteen or more may vote; a 1983 bill to extend the right to resident British citizens was ruled unconstitutional.
Presidents can serve a maximum of two terms, consecutive or otherwise.
Candidates must be Irish citizens aged 35 or more They must be nominated by one of the following:
- At least 20 members of the Oireachtas; (there are 226 members)
- At least four county or city councils (there are 34 councils)
- Themselves (in the case of incumbent or former presidents who have served one term).
The most recent presidential election was held on 27 October 2011.
The President has no vice president. In the event of a premature vacancy a successor must be elected within sixty days. In a vacancy or where the President is unavailable, the duties and functions of the office are carried out by a Presidential Commission, consisting of the Chief Justice, the Ceann Comhairle (speaker) of the Dáil, and the Cathaoirleach (chairperson) of the Seanad. Routine functions, such as signing uncontentious bills into law, have often been fulfilled by the Presidential Commission when the President is abroad on a state visit. The government's power to prevent the President leaving the state is relevant in aligning the diplomatic and legislative calendars.
Technically each president's term of office expires at midnight on the day before the new president's inauguration. Therefore, between midnight and the inauguration the following day the presidential duties and functions are carried out by the Presidential Commission. The constitution also empowers the Council of State, acting by a majority of its members, to "make such provision as to them may seem meet" for the exercise of the duties of the president in any contingency the constitution does not foresee. The Council of State can therefore be considered the third in the line of succession. However, to date, it has never been necessary for the council to take up this role.
Vacancies in the presidency have occurred three times: on the death of Erskine Hamilton Childers in 1974, and on the resignations of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in 1976 and Mary Robinson in 1997.
The official residence of the President is Áras an Uachtaráin, located in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The ninety-two room building formerly served as the 'out-of-season' residence of the Irish Lord Lieutenant and the residence of two of the three Irish Governors-General: Tim Healy and James McNeill. The President is normally referred to as 'President' or 'Uachtarán', rather than 'Mr/Madam President' or similar forms. (Note that A hUachtaráin (vocative case) would be the correct address in Irish.) The style used is normally His Excellency/Her Excellency (Irish: A Shoilse/A Soilse); sometimes people may orally address the President as 'Your Excellency' (Irish: A Shoilse [ə 'həʎʃ̪ʲə]), or simply 'President' (Irish: A Uachtaráin [ə 'uːəxt̪ˠəɾaːn̥]). The Presidential Salute is taken from the National Anthem, "Amhrán na bhFiann". It consists of the first four bars followed by the last five, without lyrics.
Under the Constitution, in assuming office the President must subscribe to a formal declaration, made publicly and in the presence of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court, and other "public personages". The inauguration of the President takes place in St Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle. The declaration is specified in Article 12.8; in English it is:
In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and the welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me.To date every President has subscribed to the declaration in Irish. In 1993, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern that, because of its religious language, the declaration amounts to a religious test for office. The Oireachtas Committee in 1998 recommended that the religious references be made optional.
The President can be removed from office in two ways, neither of which has ever been invoked. The Supreme Court, in a sitting of at least five judges, may find the President "permanently incapacitated", while the Oireachtas may remove the President for "stated misbehaviour". Either house of the Oireachtas may instigate the latter process by passing an impeachment resolution, provided at least thirty members move it and at least two thirds support it. The other house will then either investigate the stated charges or commission a body to do so; following which at least two thirds of members must agree both that the President is guilty and that the charges warrant removal.
As head of state of Ireland, the President receives the highest level of protection in the land. The Áras is protected by armed guards at all times and is encircled by security fencing. At all times the President travels with an armed security detail which is provided by the SDU (Special Detective Unit - an elite wing of the Irish police force). The Presidential limousine is a Mercedes-Benz S-Class LWB. The Presidential Limousine is always navy blue and carries the Presidential standard on the left front wing and the tricolour on the right front wing. When traveling the Presidential limousine is always accompanied by support cars (normally BMW 5 series driven by members of the SDU) and several Garda motorcycle outriders which form a protective convoy around the car. The Presidential State Car is a 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith landaulette, which is used for ceremonial occasions. The President also has the full use of all Irish Air Corps aircraft at his/her disposal if so needed.
The office of President was established in 1937, in part as a replacement for the office of Governor-General that existed during the 1922–37 Irish Free State. The seven year term of office of the President was inspired by that of the presidents of Weimar Germany. At the time the office was established critics warned that the post might lead to the emergence of a dictatorship. However, these fears were not borne out as successive Presidents played a limited, largely apolitical role in national affairs.
During the period of 1937 to 1949, it was unclear whether the Irish head of state was actually the President of Ireland or George VI, the King of Ireland. This period of confusion ended in 1949 when the state was declared to be a republic. The 1937 constitution did not mention the king; but nor did it state that the President was head of state, saying rather that the President "shall take precedence over all other persons in the State". The President exercised some powers that could be exercised by heads of state but which could also be exercised by governors or governors-general, such as appointing the Government and promulgating the law. However, in 1936 George VI had been declared "King of Ireland" and, under the External Relations Act of the same year, it was this king who represented the state in its foreign affairs. Treaties, therefore, were signed in the name of the 'King of Ireland', who also accredited ambassadors and received the letters of credence of foreign diplomats. Representing a state abroad is seen by many scholars as the key characteristic of a head of state. This role meant, in any case, that George VI was the Irish head of state in the eyes of foreign nations. The Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force in April 1949, proclaimed a republic and transferred the role of representing the state abroad from George VI to the President. No change was made to the constitution.
After the inaugural presidency of Douglas Hyde, who was an interparty nominee for the office, the nominees of the Fianna Fáil political party won every presidential election until 1990. The party traditionally used the nomination as a reward for its most senior and prominent members, such as party founder and longtime Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and European Commissioner Patrick Hillery. Most of its occupants to that time followed Hyde's precedent-setting conception of the presidency as a conservative, low-key institution that used its ceremonial prestige and few discretionary powers sparingly. In fact, the presidency was such a quiet position that Irish politicians sought to avoid contested presidential elections as often as possible, feeling that the attention such elections would bring to the office was an unnecessary distraction, and office-seekers facing economic austerity would often suggest the elimination of the office as a money-saving measure.
Despite the historical meekness of the presidency, however, it has been at the center of some high-profile controversies. In particular, the fifth President, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, faced a contentious dispute with the government in 1976 over the signing of a bill declaring a state of emergency, which ended in Ó Dálaigh's resignation. His successor, Patrick Hillery, was also involved in a controversy in 1982, when then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald requested a dissolution of the Dáil Éireann. Hillery was bombarded with phone calls from opposition members urging him to refuse the request, an action that Hillery saw as highly inappropriate interference with the President's constitutional role and resisted the political pressure.
The presidency began to be transformed in the 1990s. Hillery's conduct regarding the dissolution affair in 1982 came to light in 1990, imbuing the office with a new sense of dignity and stability. However, it was Hillery's successor, seventh President Mary Robinson, who ultimately revolutionized the presidency. The winner of an upset victory in the highly controversial election of 1990, Robinson was the Labour nominee, the first President to defeat Fianna Fáil in an election and the first female President. Upon election, however, Robinson took steps to de-politicize the office. She also sought to widen the scope of the presidency, developing new economic, political and cultural links between the state and other countries and cultures, especially those of the Irish diaspora. Robinson used the prestige of the office to activist ends, placing emphasis during her presidency on the needs of developing countries, linking the history of the Great Irish Famine to today's nutrition, poverty and policy issues, attempting to create a bridge of partnership between developed and developing countries.
The text of the Constitution of Ireland, as originally enacted in 1937, made reference in its controversial Articles 2 and 3 to two geopolitical entities: a thirty-two county 'national territory' (i.e., the island of Ireland), and a twenty-six county 'state' formerly known as the Irish Free State. The implication behind the title 'President of Ireland' was that the President would function as the head of all Ireland. However, this implication was challenged by the Ulster Unionists and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which was the state internationally acknowledged as having jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 were substantially amended in consequence of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
Ireland in turn challenged the proclamation in the United Kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 as '[Queen] of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. The Irish government refused to attend royal functions as a result; for example, Patrick Hillery declined on Government advice to attend the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, to which he had been invited by Queen Elizabeth, just as Seán T. O'Kelly had declined on government advice to attend the 1953 Coronation Garden Party at the British Embassy in Dublin. Britain in turn insisted on referring to the President as 'President of the Republic of Ireland' or 'President of the Irish Republic'. Letters of Credence from Queen Elizabeth, on the British government's advice, appointing United Kingdom ambassadors to Ireland were not addressed to the 'President of Ireland' but to the President personally (for example: 'President Hillery').
The naming dispute and consequent avoidance of contact at head of state level has gradually thawed since 1990. President Robinson (1990–97) chose unilaterally to break the taboo by regularly visiting the United Kingdom for public functions, frequently in connection with Anglo-Irish Relations or to visit the Irish emigrant community in Great Britain. In another breaking of precedent, she accepted an invitation to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II. Palace accreditation supplied to journalists referred to the "visit of the President of Ireland".
Between 1990 and 2010, both Robinson and her successor President McAleese (1997– ) visited the Palace on numerous occasions, while senior royals - the Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh all visited both Presidents of Ireland at he Áras an Uachtaráin. The Presidents attended functions with the Princess Royal. President Robinson jointly hosted a reception with the Queen at St. James's Palace, London, in 1995, to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Queen's Colleges in 1845 (the Quen's Colleges are now known as Queen's University of Belfast, University College Cork and National University of Ireland, Galway). These contacts eventually led to a state visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland in 2011.
Though the President's title implicitly asserted authority in Northern Ireland, in reality the Irish President needed government permission to visit there. (The Constitution of Ireland in Article 3 explicitly stated that "[p]ending the re-integration of the national territory" the authority of the Irish state did not extend to Northern Ireland. Presidents prior to the presidency of Mary Robinson were regularly refused permission by the Irish government to visit Northern Ireland.)
However, since the 1990s and in particular since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the president has regularly visited Northern Ireland. President McAleese, who is herself the first President of Ireland to have been born in Northern Ireland, continued on from President Robinson in this regard. In a sign of the warmth of modern British-Irish relations, she has even been warmly welcomed by most leading unionists. At the funeral for a child murdered by the Real IRA in Omagh she symbolically walked up the main aisle of the church hand-in-hand with the Ulster Unionist Party leader and then First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, MP. But in other instances, Mary McAleese has been criticised for certain comments, such as a reference to the way in which Protestant children in Northern Ireland had been brought up to hate Catholics just as German children had been encouraged to hate Jews under the Nazi regime, on 27 January 2005, following her attendance at the ceremony commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. These remarks caused outrage among Northern Ireland's unionist politicians, and McAleese later apologised and conceded that her statement had been unbalanced. Despite the changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution as part of the Good Friday Agreement the title of the office remains the "President of Ireland", as the Irish Constitution stipulates that the state's official name is simply "Ireland", and that the "Republic of" is merely its description, though there is now little dispute that the Presidency only has jurisdiction over the "Republic of" Ireland. However, she is regarded by many northern nationalists as their President, and calls have been made for voting rights in Presidential elections to be extended to the whole island.
There have been many suggestions for reforming the office of President over the years. In 1996, the Constitutional Review Group recommended that the office of President should remain largely unchanged. However, it suggested that the Constitution should be amended to explicitly declare the President to be head of state (at present that term does not appear in the text), and that consideration be given to the introduction of a constructive vote of no confidence system in the Dáil, along the lines of that in Germany. If this system were introduced then the power of the President to refuse a Dáil dissolution would be largely redundant and could be taken away. The All-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's 1998 Report made similar recommendations.
In an October 2009 poll, concerning support for various potential candidates in the 2011 presidential election conducted by the Sunday Independent, a "significant number" of people were said to feel that the presidency is a waste of money and should be abolished.
The functions of the President were executed by the Presidential Commission from the coming into force of the Constitution on 29 December 1937 until the election of Douglas Hyde in 1938, and during the vacancies of 1974, 1976, and 1997.
Mary Robinson is unusual in having a prominent career after her term of office. She resigned several months before her term was to expire in 1997, in order to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a post she held until 2002. Since the death of Patrick Hillery in 2008, she has been the sole living former President. The 11 years between Robinson's resignation and Hillery's death is the only period in Irish history in which there has been more than one living former President.
Former Presidents who are willing and able to serve are members of the Council of State.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
The list of the 153 TDs elected, is given in alphabetical order by constituency.
Members of the 8th Dáil:
Constituency Name Party
Desmond FitzGerald Cumann na nGaedheal
Seán Gibbons Fianna Fáil
Richard Holohan National Centre Party
Thomas Derrig Fianna Fáil
James Pattison Labour Party
Patrick McGovern National Centre Party
John Joe O'Reilly Cumann na nGaedheal
Michael Sheridan Fianna Fáil
Paddy Smith Fianna Fáil
Patrick Burke Cumann na nGaedheal
Éamon de Valera Fianna Fáil
Patrick Hogan Labour Party
Patrick Houlihan Fianna Fáil
Seán O'Grady Fianna Fáil
Richard Anthony Independent
W. T. Cosgrave Cumann na nGaedheal
William Desmond Cumann na nGaedheal
Thomas Dowdall Fianna Fáil
Hugo Flinn Fianna Fáil
William Broderick Cumann na nGaedheal
Martin Corry Fianna Fáil
Patrick Daly Cumann na nGaedheal
William Kent National Centre Party
Patrick Murphy Fianna Fáil
Daniel Corkery Fianna Fáil
Seán Moylan Fianna Fáil
Daniel O'Leary Cumann na nGaedheal
James Burke Cumann na nGaedheal
Tom Hales Fianna Fáil
Timothy J. Murphy Labour Party
Timothy O'Donovan National Centre Party
Eamonn O'Neill Cumann na nGaedheal
Neal Blaney Fianna Fáil
Brian Brady Fianna Fáil
James Dillon National Centre Party
Hugh Doherty Fianna Fáil
Michael Óg McFadden Cumann na nGaedheal
Daniel McMenamin Cumann na nGaedheal
James Myles Independent
Joseph O'Doherty Fianna Fáil
John A. Costello Cumann na nGaedheal
Seán Brady Fianna Fáil
Henry Dockrell Cumann na nGaedheal
John Good Independent
Seán MacEntee Fianna Fáil
Batt O'Connor Cumann na nGaedheal
Gearóid O'Sullivan Cumann na nGaedheal
Margaret Mary Pearse Fianna Fáil
Patrick Belton Cumann na nGaedheal
Cormac Breathnach Fianna Fáil
Alfred Byrne Independent
Eamonn Cooney Fianna Fáil
Richard Mulcahy Cumann na nGaedheal
Seán T. O'Kelly Fianna Fáil
Vincent Rice Cumann na nGaedheal
Oscar Traynor Fianna Fáil
James Beckett Cumann na nGaedheal
Robert Briscoe Fianna Fáil
Peadar Doyle Cumann na nGaedheal
Thomas Kelly Fianna Fáil
Seán Lemass Fianna Fáil
James Lynch Fianna Fáil
James McGuire Cumann na nGaedheal
Ernest Alton Independent
James Craig Independent
William Thrift Independent
Gerald Bartley Fianna Fáil
Patrick Beegan Fianna Fáil
Seán Broderick Cumann na nGaedheal
Frank Fahy Ceann Comhairle
Patrick Hogan Cumann na nGaedheal
Stephen Jordan Fianna Fáil
Séamus Keely Fianna Fáil
Mark Killilea, Snr Fianna Fáil
Martin McDonogh Cumann na nGaedheal
Frederick Crowley Fianna Fáil
John Flynn Fianna Fáil
Eamonn Kissane Fianna Fáil
Fionán Lynch Cumann na nGaedheal
Tom McEllistrim Fianna Fáil
Denis Daly Fianna Fáil
John O'Sullivan Cumann na nGaedheal
Thomas Harris Fianna Fáil
Sydney Minch Cumann na nGaedheal
William Norton Labour Party
William Browne Fianna Fáil
Frank Carty Fianna Fáil
James Dolan Cumann na nGaedheal
Stephen Flynn Fianna Fáil
Bernard Maguire Fianna Fáil
Martin Roddy Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick Rogers National Centre Party
Patrick Boland Fianna Fáil
William Davin Labour Party
Eamon Donnelly Fianna Fáil
Jack Finlay National Centre Party
Thomas F. O'Higgins Cumann na nGaedheal
George C. Bennett Cumann na nGaedheal
Daniel Bourke Fianna Fáil
Tadhg Crowley Fianna Fáil
Michael Keyes Labour Party
Donnchadh Ó Briain Fianna Fáil
James Reidy Cumann na nGaedheal
Robert Ryan Fianna Fáil
Charles Fagan National Centre Party
James Geoghegan Fianna Fáil
Michael Kennedy Fianna Fáil
Seán Mac Eoin Cumann na nGaedheal
James Victory Fianna Fáil
Frank Aiken Fianna Fáil
James Coburn Independent
James Murphy Cumann na nGaedheal
Micheál Clery Fianna Fáil
Michael Davis Cumann na nGaedheal
James Morrisroe Cumann na nGaedheal
P. J. Ruttledge Fianna Fáil
James FitzGerald-Kenney Cumann na nGaedheal
Michael Kilroy Fianna Fáil
Edward Moane Fianna Fáil
Martin Nally Cumann na nGaedheal
Richard Walsh Fianna Fáil
Robert Davitt Cumann na nGaedheal
James Kelly Fianna Fáil
Matthew O'Reilly Fianna Fáil
Alexander Haslett Independent
Eamon Rice Fianna Fáil
Conn Ward Fianna Fáil
National University of Ireland
Helena Concannon Fianna Fáil
Conor Maguire Fianna Fáil
Patrick McGilligan Cumann na nGaedheal
Michael Brennan Cumann na nGaedheal
Gerald Boland Fianna Fáil
Frank MacDermot National Centre Party
Patrick O'Dowd Fianna Fáil
Dan Breen Fianna Fáil
Séamus Burke Cumann na nGaedheal
Richard Curran Natioal Centre Party
Andrew Fogary Fianna Fáil
Seán Hayes Fiana Fáil
Daniel Morrissey Independent
Martin Ryan Fianna Fáil
Seán Goulding Fianna Fáil
Patrick Little Fianna Fáil
Bridget Redmond Cumann na nGaedheal
Nicholas Wall National Centre Party
Richard Corish Labour Party
Osmond Esmonde Cumann na nGaedheal
John Keating Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick Kehoe Fianna Fáil
James Ryan Fianna Fáil
James Everett Labour Part
Séamus Moore Fianna Fáil
Dermot O'Mahony Cumann na nGaedheal
Date Constituency Gain Loss Note
1933-10-13 13 October 1933 - Dublin University - Independent - Independent
Robert Rowlette (Ind) wins the seat vacated by the death of James Craig (Ind)
1935-06-17 17 June 1935 - Dublin County - Fine Gael - Fine Gael
Cecil Lavery (FG) holds the seat vacated by the death of Batt O'Connor (FG)
1935-06-19 19 June 1935 - Galway - Fianna Fáil - Fine Gael
Eamon Corbett (FF) wins the seat vacated by the death of Martin McDonogh (FG)
1936-08-13 13 August 1936 - Galway - Fianna Fáil - Fine Gael
Martin Neilan (FF) wins the seat vacated by the death of Patrick Hogan (FG)
1936-08-17 17 August 1936 - Wexford - Fianna Fáil - Fine Gael
Denis Allen (FF) wins the seat vacated by the death of Osmond Esmonde (FG)
As originally enacted, the Constitution was firmly shaped by the requirements of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that had been negotiated between the British government and Irish leaders in 1921. However, following a change of government in 1932 a series of amendments progressively removed many of the provisions that were required by the Treaty.
The Constitution established a parliamentary system of government under a form of constitutional monarchy, and contained guarantees of certain fundamental rights. It was originally intended that the Constitution would be a rigid document that, after an initial period, could be amended only by referendum. However, a loophole in the Constitution's amendment procedure meant that all amendments were in fact made by a simple Act of the Oireachtas (parliament).
Irish nationalists who fought the War of Independence believed themselves to be fighting on behalf of a newly formed state called the Irish Republic. The Irish Republic had its own president, an elected assembly called Dáil Éireann, and a judicial system in the form of the Dáil courts. However this self-proclaimed republic was recognised neither by the British government nor any other state. In the negotiations leading to the Anglo-Irish Treaty the British government insisted that the new Irish state must remain within the Commonwealth and not be a republic.
Furthermore, while the Irish Republic had a constitution, of sorts, in the form of the Dáil Constitution, this was a very brief document and had been intended to be only provisional. It was therefore clear, when, in 1921, the British government agreed to the creation of a largely independent Irish state, that a new constitution was needed. The Anglo-Irish Treaty made a number of requirements of the new constitution. Among these were that:
- The new state would be called the Irish Free State and would be a dominion of the British Commonwealth.
- The King would be the head of state and would be represented by a Governor-General.
- Members of the Oireachtas (parliament) would swear an oath of allegiance to the Irish Free State and declare their fidelity to the King. This Free State Oath of Allegiance was controversial.
- Northern Ireland would be included in the Irish Free State unless its Parliament decided to opt out (which it ultimately did).
A was signed by Figgis, James McNeill and John O’Byrne.
B was signed by James G. Douglas, C.J. France and Hugh Kennedy and it differed substantially from A only in proposals regarding the Executive. This difference was intended by Douglas to permit the Anti-treaty faction a say in the final proposed constitution before its submission to the British Government. As such it was, according to Douglas, an attempt to ameliorate the pro- and anti-Treaty split.
Draft C was the most novel of the three. It was signed by Alfred O'Rahilly and James Murnaghan, and provided for the possibility of representation for the people of the northern counties in the Dáil in the event of that area opting out of the proposed Free State.
The official Irish text was then drafted as a translation of the English text. The Irish language version was drafted by a committee which included the Minister for Education, Eoin MacNeill; the Leas-Cheann Comhairle (deputy speaker), Pádraic Ó Máille; the Clerk of the Dáil, Colm Ó Murchadha; Piaras Béaslaí; Liam Ó Rinn and Professors Osborn Bergin and T. F. O'Rahilly.
The Constitution was adopted by means of a complex process involving both the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Irish Dáil. The method used was complicated by the fact that the Free State was seceding from the United Kingdom, that the British wished to incorporate a mechanism whereby the new constitution would be subordinate to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and that the new constitution had to be legitimate both in British law and within the constitutional theory of Irish nationalists. A three stage process was followed, involving
The Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 (enacted by the Irish Constituent Assembly)
The Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 (enacted by the UK Parliament)
A royal proclamation to bring the constitution into effect.
To begin with elections were held for the Third Dáil, which was to sit as an Irish constituent assembly for the enactment of the Constitution. This assembly enacted the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 on 25 October of that year; this Irish Act was to be the overall fundamental law of the new state, and incorporated the document known more specifically as the Constitution of the Irish Free State as its first schedule. The British Parliament at Westminster then the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 on 5 December, which provided that the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 would have the force of law. The entire text of the Irish Act was reproduced as a schedule to the British Act.
Both the British and Irish Acts provided that the Constitution would be brought into force by a royal proclamation, which was accordingly issued on 6 December. The Constitution thus came into force on 6 December, the latest possible date allowed for by the Constitution itself. On this date the members of the Dáil took the Oath of Allegiance, and nominated the members of the Executive Council (cabinet).
The means by which the Constitution was adopted resembled, in some respects, the way in which constitutions were granted to other Commonwealth nations. For example the current Constitution of Australia was adopted by the British Parliament–it is a schedule to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900. The law adopted in 1922 at Westminster had the structure of a Russian doll, containing within it the entire text of the Irish Act, which in turn contained within it the whole text of the new constitution.
The Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 contained two schedules. One schedule contained the new constitution, and the other the text of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. As enacted in 1922, Section 2 of the Act provided for the supremacy of the Treaty's provisions, voiding any part of the Constitution or other Free State law that was "repugnant" to it. Similarly, both Section 2 of the Act and Article 50 of the Constitution provided that no constitutional amendment would stand so far as it violated the terms of the Treaty.
Under British constitutional legal theory, the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 held the force of law because of the enactment of the United Kingdom's Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922, thus entrenching the primacy of the Treaty. The British also viewed Irish compliance with the terms of the Treaty as a moral obligation.
The enactment by the British Parliament of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 changed the legal framework as understood by the British. The Statute was designed to increase the legislative autonomy of all the dominions. In contrast with certain of the other dominions, the Statute did not specifically place any reservation on this power as exerciseable by the Free State, and thus granted it the power to alter Irish law in any way it chose. The new government under Éamon de Valera soon used this new freedom to enact the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act 1933. Besides abolishing the Oath of Allegiance, a requirement of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Act also expressly repealed the provisions both of the constitution proper and of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 that required compliance with the Treaty. Subsequent legislation soon began to dismantle other constitutional provisions that had been required or limited by the Treaty's terms.
As originally enacted, the constitution proper consisted of 83 separate Articles, totalling around 7,600 words. The Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 consisted of only a short preamble and three short sections, but was a far longer document because, as noted above, it included as schedules the full text of both the constitution proper and the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
The articles of the constitution proper were not formally grouped together under headings, save for the final ten articles (which came under the title of "Transitory Provisions"). However, divided by subject matter the articles of the Constitution broke down roughly as follows:
Introductory provisions (Arts. 1–4) Fundamental rights (Arts. 5–10)
Legislature (Arts. 13–46) Dáil Éireann (Arts. 26–29)
The Senate (Arts. 30–34) Initiative and referendum (Arts. 47–48)
Constitutional amendments (Art. 50) Cabinet (Arts. 51–59)
Governor-General (Art. 60) Regulation of state finances (Arts. 61–63)
Courts (Arts. 64–72) Transitory Provisions (Arts. 73–83)
The constitution itself had no preamble. However the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 began with the following words:
Dáil Éireann sitting as a Constituent Assembly in this Provisional Parliament, acknowledging that all lawful authority comes from God to the people and in the confidence that the National life and unity of Ireland shall thus be restored, hereby proclaims the establishment of The Irish Free State (otherwise called Saorstát Éireann) and in the exercise of undoubted right, decrees and enacts as follows:—
Commonwealth membership: Article 1 stated that the state would be a "co-equal member" of the British Commonwealth.
Popular sovereignty: It was stated that the "all powers of government... are derived from the people of Ireland" (Article 2).
Citizenship: The constitution provided that those living in the state at the time of its coming into force who had been born in Ireland, had parents born in Ireland or had been resident in the state for seven years would become citizens. However anyone who was the citizen of another state could choose not to become an Irish citizen (Article 3).
National language: It was provided that Irish was the "National Language" but English was "equally recognised as an official language" (Article 4). The constitution included the terms Saorstát Éireann (as one name for the Irish Free State), Oireachtas (for the legislature), and Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann (for the houses of the legislature), all of which were intended for use even in English speech.
Unlike the then constitutions of Australia and Canada, the constitution included a bill of rights, in Articles 6-10. Rights were also protected by a number of provisions contained in other articles.
Prohibition of titles of nobility: It was provided that no title of honour could be conferred on an Irish citizen without the consent of the Executive Council (Article 5). In practice this amounted to a complete ban.
Liberty and habeas corpus: Article 6 provided that no-one could be deprived of liberty except in accordance with the law, and that habeas corpus would be upheld. The military forces were granted an exemption from this article during time of war or rebellion.
Inviolability of the home: The home could not be entered except in accordance with the law (Article 7).
Freedom of conscience and worship: Protected by Article 9 subject to "public order and morality" (Article 8).
Prohibition of establishment: The state could not "endow" any religion (Article 8).
Religious discrimination: The state could not discriminate on religious grounds (Article 8).
Freedom of speech, assembly and association: All guaranteed subject to "public morality". Laws regulating freedom of assembly and association could not be discriminatory (Article 9).
Right to education: Free elementary education guaranteed to all citizens (Article 10).
Trial by jury: Guaranteed by Article 72, which granted an exemption for minor offences and offences triable by court martial.
The constitution provided for a parliamentary system of government. The legislature was called the Oireachtas and had two houses: the Dáil Éireann was established as the lower house, and Seanad Éireann as the senate or upper house. However the Seanad had only limited powers of delay so it was the Dáil that was the dominant house.
The executive branch consisted, in practice, of a cabinet called the Executive Council headed by a prime minister, the President of the Executive Council. The cabinet was chosen by the Dáil, which could also dismiss it by a vote of no confidence.
The constitution provided that the judiciary would consist of the Supreme Court, the High Court, and any lower courts established by law.
The head of state was the King, represented by a Governor-General. Notionally the Governor-General was responsible for appointing and dismissing the cabinet, and could veto laws, but, in accordance with constitutional convention, he exercised merely a ceremonial role. Both the senate and the office of Governor-General were abolished by constitutional amendments during the Free State's final days.
As originally adopted the constitution contained (in Articles 47, 48 and 50) innovative provisions for direct democracy but, owing to constitutional amendments, these provisions were never permitted to come into effect. The provisions stated that the referendum and initiative would operate on the same franchise as the Dáil; this was universal suffrage beginning at the age of 21. The constitution provided for three forms of direct democracy:
Constitutional referendum: After an initial period all constitutional amendments would be subject to a mandatory, binding referendum. An amendment would not be deemed to have been passed unless at least a majority of registered voters participated in the referendum and the votes in favour were equal to either: (1) a majority of all eligible voters, or (2) a two-thirds majority of votes cast. This provision was stricter than the modern Constitution of Ireland, which merely requires a majority of votes cast.
Veto of legislation: Once a bill had been approved by both houses of the Oireachtas (or just by the Dáil, if it had overridden the Senate) its enactment into law could be suspended if, within seven days, either a majority of the Senate or 40% of all members of the Dáil so requested. There would then be a further period of ninety days within which either 5% of all registered voters, or a 60% majority in the Senate, could demand a referendum on the bill. The referendum would be decided by a majority of votes cast. If rejected the bill would not become law. These provisions did not apply to money bills or bills declared by both houses to be "necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety".
Initiative: Ordinary citizens would have the right, through an initiative process, to draft both constitutional amendments and ordinary laws, and insist that they be submitted to a referendum. The constitution provided a general frame-work for how the initiative would work, empowering the Oireachtas to fill in the details with legislation. It required that a proposal could be initiated by a petition of 50,000 registered voters. Once initiated a proposal would be referred to the Oireachtas, but if the Oireachtas did not adopt the law it would be obliged to submit it to a binding referendum. The constitution gave the Oireachtas two years to adopt a law allowing voters to introduce initiatives. However after this time voters had power to force the issue. This is because the initiative process itself could then by made the subject of an initiative. After two years the introduction of an initiative process would be put to a referendum if demanded by a petition of not less than 75,000 voters on the register (not more than fifteen thousand of whom could be voters in any one constituency).
The Achilles' heel of the direct democracy provisions was contained in Article 50 which provided that, for eight years after the constitution came into force, the Oireachtas could amend the constitution without a referendum. As interpreted by the courts, this even included the power to amend the article itself and extend this period.
The Oireachtas did not adopt legislation providing for the initiative within the two years stipulated by the constitution and, eventually, a petition of 96,000 signature was gathered by the opposition in order to trigger a referendum forcing the Oireachtas to introduce an initiative process. The Oireachtas responded by removing all provisions for direct democracy from the constitution, save for the requirement that, once the eight year transitional period had passed, it would be necessary to hold referendums on all constitutional amendments. Then in 1929 the Oireachtas extended this period to sixteen years. This meant that, by the time the constitution was replaced in 1937, the provisions for the constitutional referendum had still not come into force.
The procedure for adopting constitutional amendments was laid out in Article 50. This foresaw that amendments would first be approved by both houses of the Oireachtas, then submitted to a referendum, and finally receive the royal assent from the Governor-General. However, as already noted, the requirement for a referendum was postponed by the Oireachtas so that during the entire period of the Irish Free State the constitution could be amended by means of an ordinary law. As noted above it was originally provided that any amendments that violated the Anglo-Irish Treaty would be inadmissible, but this sole restriction was removed in 1933.
The Oireachtas readily used its powers of amendment so that, during the fifteen years of the constitution's operation, 25 formal constitutional amendments were made. This can be contrasted with the fact that, during its first sixty years, the current Constitution of Ireland was amended only sixteen times. In addition to the adoption of formal constitutional amendments, the courts ruled that the Oireachtas could also implicitly amend the constitution. When the Oireachtas adopted the Public Safety Act 1927, which affected civil rights, it included a section requiring that should the Act be found to be unconstitutional it would be treated as a constitutional amendment. Section 3 of the Act provided that:
Every provision of this Act which is in contravention of any provision of the Constitution shall to the extent of such contravention operate and have effect as an amendment [...] of the Constitution.
In the Attorney General v. McBride (1928), it was ruled that this kind of section was unnecessary because even if a law did not contain such a provision it could be interpreted as a tacit amendment of the constitution anyway, owing to the doctrine of implied repeal. This meant that, in addition to formal amendments, almost any Act of the Oireachtas could be considered an amendment of the constitution. The long process of ad hoc amendment that occurred until 1937 meant that, by the time it was replaced the constitution had become, according to President (of the Executive Council) Éamon de Valera, a "tattered and torn affair".
While Article 50 provided for the amendment of the constitution proper, there was no explicit provision in any law for the amendment of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922. Some jurists therefore maintained that the Oireachtas did not have power to amend the Act; rather, if it were possible to alter the law at all, it might be necessary to ask the British Parliament to do so, or to elect another constituent assembly. Chief Justice Kennedy was among those who took the view that the Act could not be altered by the Oireachtas. Nonetheless changes were eventually made to the Act, when the Oireachtas passed the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act 1933, and when it was repealed in its entirety with the adoption of the 1937 constitution.
When the new constitution was drafted, lessons had been learned from the Free State constitution. It too granted the Oireachtas a temporary power to make constitutional amendments by ordinary law, but, unlike the Free State constitution, it expressly forbid the legislature from using this power to extend the transitional period. Article 46 of the new constitution required that constitutional amendments be approved by referendum while Article 51 of the Transitory Provisions suspended this requirement for an initial three years (beginning when the first President assumed office). However Article 46 forbid the legislature from amending either itself or Article 51. In the event the Oireachtas used its transitional power only twice, when it adopted the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. The new constitution then settled down and was not amended again for thirty years. Another difference from the Free State constitution is that the modern constitution requires constitutional amendments to be expressly identified as such. Every amendment must have the long title "An Act to amend the Constitution".
Some amendments made minor changes, such as removing the requirement that elections occur on a public holiday, but others were more radical. These included extending the term of the Dáil in 1927, the abolition of the initiative and of direct elections to the Senate in 1928, extending the period during which the Oireachtas could amend the constitution in 1928, and the introduction of draconian provisions for trial by military tribunals in 1931. From 1933 onwards a series of further amendments were made that gradually dismantled the Treaty settlement by, for example, abolishing the Oath of Allegiance and the office of Governor-General. Because a majority of its members disagreed with this process, the Senate was abolished in 1936.
The titles given to the amendments below are in an abbreviated form. The full title of Amendment No.1 was the Constitution (Amendment No. 1) Act 1925, Amendment No. 2 was the Constitution (Amendment No. 2) Act 1927, and so forth. The only amendment not to follow this pattern was the Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act 1933. It can be seen that the official numbering of constitutional amendments did not necessarily coincide with the order in which they were adopted. Equally confusing is the fact that there were formally no Amendments No. 18, 19 or 25.
Amendment No. 1 (11 July 1925): Made changes relating to the terms of office of senators, and the date on which senatorial elections were to be held.
Amendment No. 3 (4 March 1927): Removed the requirement that the day of any general election would be declared a public holiday.
Amendment No. 4 (4 March 1927): Extended the maximum term of the Dáil from four to six years. The Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1927, enacted in May of the same year, set a limit of five years in ordinary law. The overall outcome, therefore, was that the term of the Dáil was increased by only one year.
Amendment No. 2 (19 March 1927): Introduced a system of automatic re-election of the Ceann Comhairle (chairman) of the Dáil in a general election.
Amendment No. 5 (5 May 1927): Increased the maximum membership of the Executive Council from seven to twelve members.
Amendment No. 10 (12 July 1928): Removed all direct democracy provisions except the requirement that, after a transitional period, a referendum be held on all constitutional amendments. However this remaining provision would never be allowed to come into effect.
Amendment No. 6 (23 July 1928): Replaced the direct election of the Senate with a system of indirect election.
Amendment No. 13 (23 July 1928): Extended the Senate's power of delay over legislation from nine months to twenty months. This was intended to compensate the Senate for the loss of its right to force a referendum on certain bills that had been removed by Amendment No. 6.
Amendment No. 8 (25 October 1928): Reduced the age of eligibility for senators from 35 to 30.
Amendment No. 9 (25 October 1928): Altered provisions relating to the procedure for nominating candidates to stand in senatorial elections.
Amendment No. 7 (30 October 1928): Reduced the term of office of senators from twelve to nine years.
Amendment No. 14 (14 May 1929): Clarified a technical matter relating to the relationship between the two houses of the Oireachtas.
Amendment No. 15 (14 May 1929): Permitted one member of the Executive Council to be a senator, where previously it had been required that all be members of the Dáil. It was still required that the President, Vice-President and Minister for Finance hold seats in the Dáil.
Amendment No. 16 (14 May 1929): Extended the period during which amendments of the constitution could be made by ordinary legislation from eight to sixteen years.
Amendment No. 11 (17 December 1929): Altered the method for filling premature vacancies in the Senate.
Amendment No. 12 (24 March 1930): Altered provisions relating to the Committee of Privileges that had authority to resolves disputes over the definition of a money bill.
Amendment No. 17 (17 October 1931): Introduced Article 2A, which included draconian provisions for trial by military tribunals.
Constitution (Removal of Oath) Act (3 May 1933): Abolished the Oath of Allegiance and removed requirements that the constitution and laws of the Free State be compatible with the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This involved repealing Section 2 of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922, as well as altering provisions of the constitution.
Amendment No. 20 (2 November 1933): Removed the Governor-General's role in recommending appropriations of money to the Dáil. This function was vested expressly in the Executive Council. In practice this change was merely symbolic.
Amendment No. 21 (2 November 1933): Removed provisions granting the Governor-General the theoretical right to both veto bills and reserve them "for the King's pleasure".
Amendment No. 22 (16 November 1933): Abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
Amendment No. 26 (5 April 1935): Made a technical change to Article 3, which dealt with citizenship.
Amendment No. 23 (24 April 1936): Abolished the two university constituencies in the Dáil.
Amendment No. 24 (29 May 1936): Abolished the Senate.
Amendment No. 27 (11 December 1936): Abolished the office of Governor-General and removed all reference to the King from the constitution. The functions of the Governor-General were transferred to various other branches of government.
The constitution empowered the courts to strike down laws they found to be unconstitutional. However judicial review of legislation was made largely meaningless by the ease with which the Oireachtas could alter the constitution.
Furthermore, as the state had only recently seceded from the UK, Irish judges were trained in British jurisprudence. To this tradition, founded on deference to the legislature and parliamentary sovereignty, constitutional review was an alien concept. This meant that despite the adoption of a new, more rigid constitution in 1937, constitutional review did not become a significant feature of Irish jurisprudence until the 1960s. During the entire period of the Free State, only two pieces of legislation were declared by the courts to be unconstitutional.
The Free State had significant problems with public order in early years. It was founded during the Irish Civil War which did not come to an end until May 1923, and thereafter there were continuing problems of public disorder and subversive activities by the IRA. This situation led to an erosion of civil rights in the new state.
During the Civil War a law provided the death penalty for the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm, and more than seventy people were executed for the offence. Draconian measures continued to be used after the war's conclusion; these included internment of former rebels and the punishment of flogging for arson and armed robbery, introduced in 1924. In 1931, acting in response to IRA violence, the Oireachtas adopted Amendment No. 17 of the constitution. This added a new draconian set of provisions called Article 2A to the constitution. Article 2A was very large, consisting of five parts and 34 sections. Among other provisions it granted powers of arrest, detention and trial of people before military tribunals not bound by normal rules of evidence, despite the fact that many crimes triable before the tribunals carried a mandatory death sentence. In order to protect itself from being undermined by the courts, Article 2A was drafted to state that it took precedence over all other provisions of the constitution (save Article 1).
The provisions for military tribunals were challenged in 1935 in the case of The State (Ryan) v. Lennon. In this case the majority of the Supreme Court reluctantly held that, because Amendment No. 17 had been duly adopted in accordance with the correct procedure, it was not open to the judges to strike it down. However Chief Justice Kennedy disagreed, arguing, in a dissenting opinion, that the Article 2A violated natural law.
As originally enacted, the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922 consisted of a preamble, five sections (three of which were very brief), and a schedule. The bill for the Act was introduced by the Prime Minister David Lloyd George into the Parliament of the United Kingdom in November 1922. The bill's third reading in the House of Commons was on 30 November.
The Preamble, like the preamble to the Act passed by the Provisional Parliament of the Free State, bases the Constitution on the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921. It recites that the Constitution shall be construed in reference to the Treaty and:
"if any provision of the said Constitution or of any amendment thereof or of any law made there under is in any respect repugnant to any of the provisions of the Scheduled Treaty [the Anglo-Irish Treaty], it shall, to the extent only of such repugnancy be absolutely void and inoperative and the Parliament and the Executive Council of the Irish Free State shall respectively pass such further legislation and do such other things as may be necessary to implement the Scheduled Treaty."
The first section of the Act declares the Constitution adopted by the Provisional Parliament to be the Constitution of the Irish Free State. Its adoption is to be effective not later than 6 December 1922 by Royal Proclamation and the Constitution will come into operation on the issue of such Royal Proclamation. Section 2 makes provision for certain taxation related matters.
The Constitution of the Irish Free State in the form in which it was passed by the Provisional Parliament forms the First Schedule of the Act. The Articles of Agreement for a treaty between Great Britain and Ireland form the Second Schedule.
The New York Times reported on the passing of the Act on 5 December 1922 as follows:
At 6 o’clock this evening an event of great historic interest and of international importance took place in the House of Lords. A few minutes before that hour the Irish Free State Constitution bills had passed the final stage in the House of Commons by formal acceptance of the Lords’ amendments. It was brought back, beribboned and sealed, by the Clerk of the Commons himself, and handed to the Clerk of the Parliament to receive the Royal assent. This was conferred, as usual, by the Royal Commission, the members of which were Lord Cave, Lord Novar and Lord Somerleyton.....King George will make a special journey from Sandringham tomorrow to hold a privy council in Buckingham Palace, at which he will sign a proclamation declaring the adoption of the Irish Constitution by the British and Irish Parliaments. The Constitution will come into operation immediately on the issue of the proclamation.
The New York Times also reported that in Parliament a group of Communists singing "The Red Flag" caused a minor disturbance as the formalities relating to the Act's passage were underway.
Article 12 of the Treaty [in law, Section 5 of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922] accorded to Northern Ireland the right to secede from the new Free State and rejoin the United Kingdom, giving its parliament a month in which to decide; the so-called "Ulster Month".
On 7 December 1922, the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Parliament of Northern Ireland addressed the King unanimously requesting its secession from Irish Free State. The King replied shortly thereafter to say that he had caused his Ministers and the Government of the Irish Free State to be informed that Northern Ireland was to do so. The address and its overall effect was known locally as the "Constitution Act".
The first two Governors-General lived in an official residence, the Viceregal Lodge, now known as Áras an Uachtaráin and the residence of the President of Ireland. The last Governor-General resided in a specially hired private residence in Booterstown, County Dublin.
The Governor-General was formally appointed by the King, but in practice chosen by politicians. Until 1927 he was selected by the British Government, but after that date the Irish Government assumed the right to choose the office-holder. This change arose from the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, enacted at Westminster after an agreement reached between Britain and her dominions at an Imperial conference.
Under this, the King now reigned in the Irish Free State as 'King of Ireland' rather than 'King of the United Kingdom'. This meant that the King ceased to accept formal advice from the British Government in relation to his role in the Irish Free State, and henceforth accepted only the advice of the Irish Executive Council (cabinet). The change meant that while Tim Healy, the first Governor-General, was chosen with the agreement of the British Government, the British Government had no role in the selection of his two successors. The Free State constitution did not provide that the Governor-General would serve a fixed term of office, but in 1927 the Irish Government decided that no Governor-General would serve a term of longer than five years.
Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the Governor General was bound to act in accordance with the "law, practice and constitutional usage" relevant to the Governor General of Canada. His formal duties included the following:
- Executive authority: The executive authority of the state was formally 'vested' in the King but 'exercised' by the Governor General, on the 'advice' of the Executive Council.
- Appointment of the cabinet: The President of the Executive Council (prime minister) was appointed by the Governor General after being selected by Dáil Éireann (the lower house of parliament). The remaining ministers were appointed on the nomination of the president, subject to a vote of consent in the Dáil.
- Convention and dissolution of the legislature: The Governor-General, on behalf of the King, convened and dissolved the Oireachtas on the advice of the Executive Council.
- Signing bills into law: The King was formally, along with the Dáil and the Senate, one of three components of the Oireachtas. No bill could become law until it received the Royal Assent, given by the Governor-General on behalf of the King. The Governor-General theoretically had the right to veto a bill or "reserve" it "for the signification of the King's pleasure", in effect postponing a decision on whether or not to enact the bill, for a maximum of one year.
- Appointment of judges: All judges were appointed by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council.
Until 1928, the Governor-General served an additional role as the British Government's agent in the Free State. This meant that all official correspondence between the British and Irish governments went through the Governor-General, and that he had access to British government papers. It also meant that he could receive secret instructions from the British Government, and so, for example, on assuming office Tim Healy was formally advised by the British Government to veto any law that attempted to abolish the controversial Oath of Allegiance to the Crown sworn by Irish parliamentarians.However, at the same Imperial conference from which the change in the mode of the Governor-General's appointment arose, it was agreed that henceforth the Governors-General of Dominions such as the Free State would lose the second half of their dual role, and no longer be representatives of the British Government, with this role being carried out instead by High Commissioners. Furthermore, because, under the changes agreed, the British Government lost the right to advise the King in relation to the Irish Free State, it could no longer issue binding instructions to the Irish Governor-General.
When the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom in 1922 it was under the terms of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. While Irish political leaders favoured the creation of a republic the treaty required, instead, that the new state would be a Dominion within the British Empire under a form of constitutional monarchy. Central to the agreed system of government was to be a "Representative of the Crown". The new office was not named in the treaty, but the committee charged with drawing up the Free State constitution, under Michael Collins, decided, after considering a number of names, including "President of Ireland", that the representative would bear the title of Governor-General, the same as that used by the Crown's representative in other Dominions, such as Canada, Newfoundland Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Crown's representative was to be bound by the same constitutional conventions as the Governors-General of other dominions, which would limit him to a largely ceremonial role. It was hoped that, if he was given the same title as that used in other dominions, then, if the British government attempted to violate convention by using the office of Governor-General to interfere in the Free State's affairs, these other nations would see their own autonomy threatened and might object.
The first two Governors-General of the Irish Free State assumed office under the pro-Treaty, Cumann na nGaedheal government of W. T. Cosgrave. When it came to choosing the first Governor-General there was speculation about a number of possible candidates, including the famed Irish painter Sir John Lavery and Edward, the Prince of Wales. However the Irish Government let it be known that it wished Tim Healy, a former Parnellite MP, to be appointed, and the British Government ultimately agreed.
When it came to selecting Healy's successor the Irish Government chose James McNeill, a former member of Collins's constitution committee and former chairman of Dublin County Council, and in 1928 he was sworn in. Because, unlike his predecessor he was not the United Kingdom's representative in the Free State but merely the personal representative of the King, McNeill found himself with less influence than Healy had possessed.
In 1932, Cosgrave's government lost power to the anti-Treaty, Fianna Fáil party of Éamon de Valera. Because it opposed the very existence of the governor-generalship, de Valera's government decided to boycott and humiliate McNeill. This policy was followed, for example, during the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 when McNeill was sidelined and on one occasion the army's band was withdrawn from a function that he attended. On another occasion, two ministers publicly stormed out of a diplomatic function when McNeill arrived as the guest of the French Government.
In late 1932, de Valera and McNeill clashed when McNeill published his private correspondence with de Valera, and de Valera sought McNeill's dismissal. King George V, however, acting as peacemaker, persuaded de Valera to withdraw the request on the basis that McNeill was due to finish his term of office within a few weeks. He then persuaded McNeill to bring forward his retirement to 1 November, 1932. On McNeill's retirement de Valera advised the King to appoint Domhnall Ua Buachalla, a former Fianna Fáil TD to the post. The new Governor-General was formally advised by the government to withdraw from public life and confine himself to formal functions such as issuing proclamations, dissolving Dáil Éireann and appointing cabinets.
In December 1936, when King Edward VIII abdicated from all his thrones, including the throne of Ireland (as created in the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act), De Valera decided to use the situation as an opportunity to finally abolish the governor-generalship. As a result of the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act 1936, all reference to the King and his official representative was removed from the Constitution. However de Valera was later advised by his own Attorney-General and senior advisors that the amendment was not sufficient to abolish the office entirely, which still continued by virtue of Letters Patent, Orders-in-Council and statute law. Though officially insisting that the office had been abolished (de Valera instructed
Ua Buachalla to act as though he had left office and to leave his official residence) de Valera introduced a second law, the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937 to completely eliminate the post from Irish law. Under its own terms the Act applied retroactively, so that the office would be deemed to have been fully abolished in December 1936. In December 1937, under the new Constitution of Ireland, the void was filled as most of the functions that had been performed by the Governor General until 1936 were vested in a new office of President of Ireland.
Ua Buachalla and de Valera, although once close friends, fell out over Ua Buachalla's treatment in the abolition of the governor-generalship, with Ua Buachalla initiating legal proceedings to sue de Valera. However, their relationship was eventually healed and, when de Valera later became President of Ireland, he appointed Ua Buachalla to the Council of State in 1959. Ua Buachalla was the last surviving Governor-General, and died aged 97 on 30 October 1963.
On the day the Irish Free State was established, it comprised the entire island of Ireland, but Northern Ireland almost immediately exercised its right under the Treaty to opt out of the new state. The Irish Free State effectively replaced the self-proclaimed Irish Republic (itself established on 21 January 1919). Similarly, the new government of the Irish Free State replaced both the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland and the Government of the Irish Republic although W. T. Cosgrave, the first President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State had, in any event, led both governments since August 1922.
The Irish Free State came to an end in 1937, when the citizens voted by referendum to replace the 1922 constitution. It was succeeded by the entirely sovereign modern state of Ireland.
For about two days from 6 December 1922 Northern Ireland became part of the newly created Irish Free State. This constitutional episode arose because of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the legislation introduced to give that Treaty legal effect.
The Treaty was given legal effect in the United Kingdom through the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922. That Act established, on 6 December 1922, the new Dominion for the whole island of Ireland. Legally therefore, on 6 December 1922, Northern Ireland became an autonomous region of the newly created Irish Free State.
However, the Treaty and the laws which implemented it also allowed Northern Ireland to opt out of the Irish Free State. Under Article 12 of the Treaty, Northern Ireland could exercise its opt out by presenting an address to the King requesting not to be part of the Irish Free State.
Once the Treaty was ratified, the Houses of Parliament of Northern Ireland had one month (dubbed the Ulster month) to exercise this opt out during which month the Irish Free State Government could not legislate for Northern Ireland, holding the Free State’s effective jurisdiction in abeyance for a month.
Realistically, it was always certain that Northern Ireland would opt out of the Free State. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Sir James Craig, speaking in the Parliament in October 1922 said that “when the 6th of December is passed the month begins in which we will have to make the choice either to vote out or remain within the Free State.” He said it was important that that choice was made as soon as possible after 6 December 1922 “in order that it may not go forth to the world that we had the slightest hesitation”.
On 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State) the Parliament demonstrated its lack of hesitation by resolving to make the following address to the King so as to opt out of the Irish Free State:
”MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Senators and Commons of Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.”
Discussion in the Parliament of the address was short. Prime Minister Craig left for London with the memorial embodying the address on the night boat that evening, 7 December 1922. The King received it the following day, The Times reporting:
"YORK COTTAGE, SANDRINGHAM, DEC. 8. The Earl of Cromer (Lord Chamberlain) was received in audience by The King this evening and presented an Address from the Houses of Parliament of Northern Ireland, to which His Majesty was graciously pleased to make reply."
With this, Northern Ireland had left the Irish Free State. If the Houses of Parliament of Northern Ireland had not made such a declaration, under Article 14 of the Treaty Northern Ireland, its Parliament and government would have continued in being but the Oireachtas would have had jurisdiction to legislate for Northern Ireland in matters not delegated to Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act. This, of course, never came to pass.
On 13 December 1922, Prime Minister Craig addressed the Parliament informing them that the King had responded to the Parliament’s address as follows:
“I have received the Address presented to me by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in pursuance of Article 12 of the Articles of Agreement set forth in the Schedule to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922, and of Section 5 of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, and I have caused my Ministers and the Irish Free State Government to be so informed.”
The Easter Rising of 1916, and in particular the decision of the British military authorities to execute many of its leaders after courts martial, generated sympathy for the republican cause in Ireland. Republicans and some independent Nationalists who led opposition to the idea of compulsory military service for Irish men in the conscription crisis of early 1918. The Irish Parliamentary Party, who supported the Allied cause in World War I in response to the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill in 1914 was discredited by the crisis. In the December 1918 general election, a large majority of Irish seats in the Westminster parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland were won by Sinn Féin, with 73 of 105 constituencies returning Sinn Féin members. Sinn Féin was a previously non-violent separatist party founded by Arthur Griffith in 1905. Under Éamon de Valera's leadership from 1917, it had campaigned aggressively for an Irish republic.
On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs (who became known as Teachta Dála, TDs) refusing to sit in the British House of Commons at Westminster, assembled in Dublin and formed a single chamber Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland). It affirmed the creation of an Irish Republic and passed a Declaration of Independence, calling itself Saorstát Éireann in Irish. Although it was accepted by the overwhelming majority of Irish people, only Soviet Russia recognised the Irish Republic internationally.
The War of Independence was fought between the army of the Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (known now as the "Old IRA" to distinguish it from later organisations of that name), and the British Army of the United Kingdom. On 9 July 1921, a truce was declared. On October 11 negotiations were opened under British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Arthur Griffith, who headed the Irish Republic's delegation. The Irish Treaty delegation set up Headquarters in Hans Place, Knightsbridge and on 5 December 1921 at 11:15 am it was decided by the delegation during private discussions at 22 Hans Place to recommend the Treaty to the Dáil Éireann; negotiations continued until 2:30 am on 6 December 1921 after which the Treaty was signed by the parties.
That these negotiations would produce a form of Irish government short of the independence wished for by republicans was not in doubt. The United Kingdom could not offer a republican form of government without losing prestige and risking demands for something similar throughout the Empire. Furthermore, as one of the negotiators, Michael Collins, later admitted (and he was in a position to know, given his role in the independence war), the IRA at the time of the truce was weeks, if not days, from collapse, with a chronic shortage of ammunition. "Frankly, we thought they were mad", Collins said of the sudden British offer of a truce, although it was likely they would have continued in one form or another, given the level of public support. The President of the Republic, Éamon de Valera, realising that a republic was not on offer, decided not to be a part of the treaty delegation and so be tainted by more militant republicans as a "sellout". Yet his own proposals published in January 1922 fell far short of an autonomous all-Ireland republic.
As expected, the Anglo-Irish Treaty explicitly ruled out a republic. What it offered was dominion status, as a state of the British Empire, equal to Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. Though less than expected by the Sinn Féin leadership, it was substantially more than the initial form of home rule within the United Kingdom sought by Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, and a serious advancement on the Home Rule Act of 1914 that the Irish nationalist leader John Redmond had achieved through parliamentary proceedings. It was ratified by the Second Dáil, splitting Sinn Féin in the process.
The Treaty established that the new Irish Free State would be a constitutional monarchy, with a Governor-General. The Constitution of the Irish Free State made more detailed provision for the state's system of government, with a three-tier parliament, called the Oireachtas, made up of the King and two houses, Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate). Executive authority was vested in the King, and exercised by a cabinet called the Executive Council, presided over by a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.
The King in Ireland was represented by a Governor-General of the Irish Free State. The office replaced the previous Lord Lieutenant, who had headed English and British administrations in Ireland since the Middle Ages. Governors-General were appointed by the King initially on the advice of the British Government, but with the consent of the Irish Government. From 1927 the Irish Government alone had the power to advise the King whom to appoint.
As with all dominions, provision was made for an Oath of Allegiance. Within dominions, such oaths were taken by parliamentarians personally towards the monarch. The Irish Oath of Allegiance was fundamentally different. It had two elements; the first, an oath to the Free State, as by law established, the second part a promise of fidelity, to His Majesty, King George V, his heirs and successors. That second fidelity element, however, was qualified in two ways. It was to the King in Ireland, not specifically to the British King. Secondly, it was to the King explicitly in his role as part of the Treaty settlement, not in terms of pre-1922 British rule. The Oath itself came from a combination of three sources, and was largely the work of Michael Collins in the Treaty negotiations. It came in part from a draft oath suggested prior to the negotiations by President de Valera. Other sections were taken by Collins directly from the Oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, of which he was the secret head. In its structure, it was also partially based on the form and structure used in the Dominion of Canada.
Although controversially moderate by other dominion standards, and notably indirect in its reference to the monarchy (and hence widely criticised by unionists and other dominions), it was criticised by nationalists and republicans for making any reference to the Crown, the claim being that it was a direct oath to the Crown, a fact demonstrably incorrect by an examination of its wording. But in 1922 Ireland and beyond, it was the perception, not the reality, that influenced public debate on the issue. Had its original author, Michael Collins, survived, he might have been able to clarify its actual meaning, but with his assassination in 1922, no major negotiator to the Oath's creation on the Irish side was still alive, available or pro-Treaty. (The leader of the Irish delegation, Arthur Griffith, had also died in August 1922). The Oath became a key issue in the resulting Irish Civil War that divided the pro- and anti-treaty sides in 1922–23.
The compromises contained in the agreement caused the civil war in the 26 counties in June 1922–April 1923, in which the pro-Treaty Provisional Government defeated the anti-Treaty Republican forces. The latter were led, nominally, by Éamon de Valera, who had resigned as President of the Republic on the treaty's ratification. His resignation outraged some of his own supporters, notably Seán T. O'Kelly. On resigning, he then sought re-election but was defeated two days later on a vote of 60-58. The pro-Treaty Arthur Griffith followed as President of the Irish Republic.
Michael Collins was chosen at a meeting of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland (a body set up under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) to become Chairman of the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland in accordance with the Treaty. The general election in June gave overwhelming support for the pro-Treaty parties. W.T. Cosgrave's Crown-appointed Provisional Government of Southern Ireland effectively subsumed Griffith's republican administration with the death of both Collins and Griffith in August 1922.
The following were the principal parties of government of the Irish Free State between 1922 and 1937:
- Cumann na nGaedheal under W. T. Cosgrave (1922–32)
- Fianna Fáil under Éamon de Valera (1932–37)
However, a number of conditions existed:
The King remained king in Ireland;
Prior to the passage of the Statute of Westminster, the U.K. government continued to have a significant role in Irish governance. Officially the representative of the King, the Governor-General also received instructions from the British Government on his use of the Royal Assent, namely a Bill passed by the Dáil and Seanad could be Granted Assent (signed into law), Withheld (not signed, pending later approval) or Denied (vetoed). Letters patent to the first Governor-General Tim Healy had named explicitly Bills that if passed were to be blocked, such as any attempt to abolish the Oath. In the event, no such Bills were ever introduced, so the issue was moot.
As a British Dominion, The Irish Free State, had limited autonomy. Entitlement of citizenship of the Irish Free State was defined in the Irish Free State Constitution, but the status of that citizenship was contentious. One of the first projects of the Irish Free State was the design and production of the Great Seal of Sáorstát Éireann which was carried out on behalf of the Government by Hugh Kennedy.
The meaning of 'Dominion status' changed radically during the 1920s, starting with the Chanak crisis in 1922 and quickly followed by the directly negotiated Halibut Treaty of 1923. A reform of the King's title following an Imperial Conference decision and given effect by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, changed the King's royal title so that it took account of the fact that there was no longer a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The King adopted the following style by which he would be known in all of his Empire: By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India. That title was the Kings' title in Ireland just as elsewhere in his Empire.
In the conduct of external relations, The Irish Free State tried to push the boundaries of its status as a Dominion. It 'accepted' credentials from international ambassadors to Ireland, something no other dominion up to then had done. It registered the treaty with the League of Nations as an international document, over the objections of the United Kingdom, which saw it as a mere internal document between a dominion and the United Kingdom.
The Statute of Westminster (of 1931), embodying a decision of an Imperial Conference, enabled each Dominion to enact new legislation or to change any extant legislation, without resorting to any role for the British parliament that may have enacted the original legislation in the past.
Ireland symbolically marked these changes in two mould-breaking moves: It sought, and got the King's acceptance, to have an Irish minister, to the complete exclusion of British ministers, formally advising the king by in the exercise of his powers and functions as King in the Irish Free State. Two examples of this are the signing of a treaty between the Irish Free State and the Portuguese Republic in 1931, and the act recognising the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 separately from the recognition by the British parliament.
The unprecedented replacement of the use of the Great Seal of the Realm and its replacement by the Great Seal of the Irish Free State, which the King awarded to the Irish Free State in 1931. (The Irish Seal consisted of a picture of 'King George V' enthroned on one side, with the Irish state harp and the words Saorstát Éireann ('Irish Free State') on the reverse. It is now on display in the Irish National Museum, Collins Barracks in Dublin.)
When Éamon de Valera became President of the Executive Council (prime minister) in 1932 he described Cosgrave's ministers' achievements simply. Having read the files, he told his son, Vivion, "they were magnificent, son". One issue that remained to be resolved was issue of Britain's retention of control of a number of ports in the Irish Free State, called the Treaty Ports. However, the Ports were returned to Ireland in 1938.
The Statute of Westminister allowed de Valera, on becoming President of the Executive Council (February 1932), to go even further. With no ensuing restrictions on his policies, he abolished the Oath of Allegiance (which Cosgrave intended to do had he won the 1932 general election), the Senate, university representation in the Dáil, and appeals to the Privy Council. One major policy error occurred in 1936 when he attempted to use the abdication of King Edward VIII to abolish the crown and governor-general in the Free State with the "Constitution (Amendment No. 27 Act)". He was advised by senior law officers and other constitutional experts that, as the crown and governor-generalship existed separately from the constitution in a vast number of acts, charters, orders-in-council, and letters patent, they both still existed. A second bill, the "Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937" was quickly introduced to repeal necessary the elements. De Valera retroactively dated the second act back to December, 1936.
According to one report, in 1924, shortly after the Irish Free State's establishment, the new dominion had the "lowest birth-rate in the world". The report noted that amongst countries for which statistics were available (Ceylon, Chile, Japan, Spain, South Africa, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Australia, United States, Scotland, Britain [sic], New Zealand, Finland and the Irish Free State). Ceylon had the highest birth rate at 40.8 per 1,000 while the Irish Free State had a birth rate of just 18.6 per 1,000.
In 1937, de Valera's majority government presented a draft of an entirely new Constitution to the Dáil Éireann. An amended version of the draft document was subsequently approved by the Dáil. A referendum was then held on the same day as the 1937 general election, when a relatively narrow majority approved it. The new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) repealed the 1922 Constitution, and came into effect on 29 December 1937.
The state was named Ireland (Éire in the Irish language), and a new office of President of Ireland was instituted in place of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. The new constitution claimed jurisdiction over all of Ireland while recognising the reality of the British presence in the northeast. The draft document was reviewed by the Vatican twice before it was presented to Dail Eireann. It recognised the "special position" of the Roman Catholic Church, while also recognising the existence and rights of other faiths, specifically the minority Anglican Church of Ireland and the Jewish Congregation in Ireland. This article was repealed in 1973.
Articles 2 and 3 were reworded in 1998 to remove jurisdictional claim over the entire island and to recognise that "a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island."
It was left to the initiative of de Valera's successors in government to achieve the country's formal transformation into a republic. A small but significant minority of Irish people, usually attached to parties like Sinn Féin and the smaller Republican Sinn Féin, denied the right of the twenty-six county state to use the name Republic and continued to refer to the state as the Free State. With Sinn Féin's entry in the Republic's Dáil and the Northern Ireland Executive at the close of the 20th century, the number of those who refuse to accept the legitimacy, which was already in a minority, declined further.